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Using data and KPIs to make better decisions

Photo of data dashboard showing user statistics for a web page

Image by Luke Chesser using Creative Commons Licence 2.0 

What are KPIs?  

KPIs or Key Performance Indicators are a way to define and measure success. They help organisations track performance over time against a set of objectives using data. 

Why are they important?  

As performance analysts in the User Centered Design team, we have been thinking about KPIs and how we can use them to measure, track and report on how our websites are performing. This will help us understand how well our sites are meeting user needs and achieving Parliament’s goals.

Without KPIs, we don’t have an objective way to benchmark performance, understand how well things are working, or whether the changes we make to improve them are delivering the impact we aimed for. In short, we don’t know if we’re making things better. 

There’s also a risk that with no agreed measures or process to gather data, this data can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. 

Introducing a common set of KPIs can help us define what success looks like and introduce a standard way to measure our progress. We will know what we are striving for and can focus on things we and our users really care about. This rigorous approach also sets the standard for an evidence-based way of working. 

This project is part of a wider piece of thinking that we are doing about how we understand performance of our services across the board, not only online. This work on defining a common set of KPIs is in its infancy but it iproving useful by informing us as we look at the bigger picture. 

Aren’t we using KPIs already?  

Various teams that manage Parliament’s websites are setting their own KPIs to measure success. Some teams are confident using them, others don’t feel they have the time to use them effectively without guidance.  

If the data is not used in a timely way or the wrong information is measured, the full potential of KPIs will be difficult to achieve. 

Our aim is to help PDS and teams across Parliament to: 

  • understand how their websites are performing against their definition of success 
  • embed the use of standard KPIs so that all sites are compliant, adhere to best practice and help us to optimise performance
  • create a shared framework and language for measuring performance, making it easier for teams to make decisions informed by evidence and data. 

KPIs can bring together large quantities of information into relevant snippets. They can help teams think about how to stay on top of trends, see what needs to improve and come up with action plans to make the changes happen. 

Who would be interested in using them? 

To find out, we interviewed people from the Commons, Lords, and PDS. This included stakeholders and people who had been involved with a digital product development process, and in specialist disciplines in PDS. We also talked to heads of teams, senior managers, and others. Seven rounds of interviews were conducted with sixteen participants. 

The interviews and discussions we've had are preliminary and we've much more work to do, but our findings make it clear that people want to know more about the importance and benefits of KPIs and how they can use them.  

How are you using the results? 

We discovered the following user needs to be the most important: 

  • I need help setting KPIs, so that I can measure how successful my work is 
  • I need user focused KPIs, so that I know if I'm meeting user needs 
  • I need a template to clearly report my indicators, so that others can understand success and opportunities
  • I need to set robust goals and KPIs, so that I know if work is meeting expectations. 

Based on these findings, we believe this project has value and the potential to progress to the alpha phase. This means we increase our engagement with audiences across Parliament and our user base with more interviews, bring our findings together and try out different solutions to address the needs identified.

We will then test, iterate and refine until we find what works. We will collaborate with analysts across Parliament to share our findings and develop a measurement framework.

This kind of framework helps to structure KPIs around the strategy and goals of the business and teams will have a much clearer picture of how they are performing and how close they are to meeting their objectives.  

What have you learnt that you wish you’d known at the start? 

We discovered that the format of some of our questions meant that the participants struggled to answer them directly. Badly worded questions run the risk of people going off on a tangent. 

What are the future challenges? 

KPIs are a management tool and to be successful they need to be embraced by everyone. Once we settle on the most suitable range of KPIs that work for teams with different objectives and strategies, we still have more work to do with managers to define a consistent way to analyse the findings and agree on a process as to how they are used. 

We will work to get the balance right between helping teams to gain valuable insights and make sure the process can be carried out in a relatively short time.  

The good news is that we can refine and adapt our approach if the KPIs are not working. We can continue with this until we find what works for all of us in a meaningful and time efficient way. 

Read more from Naresh and the performance analyst team about their work. 

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